A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Patriot Profile: Donna Imadi

By Lindsay Bernhards, BA '18 on July 20, 2018


Year: Senior

Major: Global Affairs and International Conflict Analysis and Resolution

Hometown: Alexandria, Virginia

When Mason global affairs major Donna Imadi was still a senior in high school, her AP comparative government teacher assigned a project to address problems in the local community. Imadi came up with the idea of a centralized community-based mentorship program that could offer support for high school students facing linguistic, socioeconomic, and other challenges outside of school. A year later, as a college freshman in Mason’s Honors College, she turned her idea into the nonprofit organization InvestinYOUth.

Donna Imadi

Experiencing the Disparity: Imadi knew firsthand the impact a school’s resources could have on a student, and she used that as inspiration for her project. Having moved from a rural community back to Fairfax County, she was troubled by the drastic change in the quality of her education and wondered why other students did not have access to the same standards that exist in Fairfax County Public Schools. “I didn’t think it was fair that I had access to more resources, and students in other areas of the state did not,” she says.

Looking at the Data: Imadi researched the impact of demographic change and the suburbanization of poverty on local public school systems for a project in her HNRS 110 class. She discovered that social programming needs did not match the new student population, as funding allocation could not sufficiently match the needs of the population changes. She also found that students with limited proficiency in English and students facing poverty due to high living expenses were especially at risk. She started InvestinYOUth to help connect these at-risk high school students with college mentors. “I think connecting peers in college to high school students is especially impactful. It can inspire students and show them they can achieve and take hold of their destiny, just as the diverse group of our student mentors have, who come from all walks of life.”

Pitching Her Idea: Imadi pitched her idea to the Fairfax County Public Schools school board and developed it with then Associate Superintendent Linda Burke. She lobbied for the idea at the General Assembly, and a year later, she forged a partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools and received a grant of $4,283 from Apple Federal Credit Union. InvestinYOUth officially launched at Mountain View Alternative High School in Centreville, Virginia, with more than 250 student and faculty attendees and guest speakers. “It was amazing, the impact we had, but more so the impact we have the potential of having. I was so humbled and honored to be part of it all.”

Future Plans: Imadi plans to expand InvestinYOUth across universities in Virginia where communities are facing similar challenges. She hopes her program will be the answer for those struggling to succeed in school due to circumstances beyond their control. Ultimately, InvestinYOUth and its members hope to be the initiative that helps Virginia’s public universities foster partnerships with secondary schools to provide free tutoring and mentorship within their communities, which lack the funds to do so. “I hope we can be those mentors that help push [these students] to reach their fullest potential by providing them the opportunity to better their academic or life skills,” she says. “We’re proof of the larger role in the community that we can play as students, and as resources for the progress of our society.”


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